Newswise — Radames and Ana Arocho were all smiles when they arrived on the white school bus, and their enthusiasm was contagious.  All of the other senior citizens on the bus, including Maria Paz, were  excited because it was second-shot day.  By the time the bus pulled away from Palisades Medical Center, they would be fully vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19.  The Arochos of North Bergen are among the thousands of senior citizens who live in Bergen and Hudson counties who have been vaccinated at Palisades Medical Center thanks to a partnership between the hospital and local officials. 

“We have been excited for weeks about this,” said Radamas Arocho, his wife nodding in agreement. Boy, do we feel such a sense of hope about being able to protect ourselves as well as others. Don’t get me wrong, we are still going to protect ourselves by wearing masks and social distancing, etc., because you cannot stop doing that, you know, but we are looking forward to seeing family again, and worrying less.”  

"Yes, that is exactly how we feel, protected, thank God," Maria Paz said.  "I am very grateful for this opportunity to get vaccinated and now I can't wait to see my grandchildren!"

On Monday, Palisades Medical Center administered its 25,000th vaccination at the North Bergen hospital. In recent months, the hospital has implemented a get-out-the-vaccine program designed to  improve COVID-19 vaccine access for older adults and other vulnerable individuals in Hudson and Bergen counties — including adults 65 and older and younger individuals with medical problems in the communities of North Bergen, as well as Cliffside Park, Edgewater, Weehawken and West New York. 

Senior citizens from West New York were the first to benefit from vaccinations at Palisades Medical Center.  In February, Palisades  leadership partnered with the West New York Housing Authority to coordinate vaccination of older adults who live in senior housing. The first to benefit were seniors 75 and older who were brought to Palisades by bus to receive their vaccines. The program was then expanded to include adults 65 and over, and eventually, housing authority residents between the ages of 16 and 64 with medical issues. Soon the hospital was partnering with other municipalities. 

In recognition of the vaccine effort and the care provided during the pandemic, West New York Mayor Gabriel Rodriguez and the Board of Commissioners, recently issued a proclamation.

“Palisades has administered tens of thousands of vaccine doses to the community, with a focus on providing the vaccine to those who are most vulnerable,” said Anthony Passannante, Jr., M.D., FACC, president and chief hospital executive of Palisades Medical Center. “We really are happy to be helping senior citizens and the most vulnerable from experiencing the devastating consequences of this virus. ” 

Palisades Medical Center is also working with Hudson Pride, an LGBTQ+ community organization, to serve the Hudson County LGBTQ+ community and provide vaccine access to eligible individuals. 

“In addition to older adults, PMC has helped to vaccinate first responders, law enforcement, and teachers,” said Dr. Passannante. “As vaccine eligibility continues to expand, the PMC team is taking steps to ensure that eligible residents of Bergen and Hudson counties can receive their COVID-19 vaccine as efficiently as possible.”